Before his 30-year tenure as a U.S Supreme Court justice, for which he is often remembered as the “Great Dissenter,” Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. fought in the Civil War on the side of the Union. A first lieutenant in the 20th Massachusetts Regiment of Volunteers, he was seriously wounded at the battles of Ball’s Bluff, Antietam and Chancellorsville.
On May 30, 1884, Holmes gave the following address to his fellow veterans at John Sedgwick Post No. 4, Grand Army of the Republic, in Keene, N.H. It is the first of his two famous and oft-quoted Memorial Day speeches.